“One Happy Island”… That’s the way the locals describe their beautiful island and after visiting, I’m in complete agreement.  Let me share some of my Aruba experiences…

Why You Should Go?

The island, which is located only 15 miles from the coast of Venezuela, is known for its dry and sunny climate and white sand beaches.  The topography of the island is remarkable and seemingly contradictory as you see cactus plants growing just minutes from the beach.  The island is literally the desert and the ocean wrapped into one, but the combination of the landscapes is nothing short of breathtaking.  The perfectly turquoise water of the Caribbean Sea is the perfect temperature to cool off from the heat, which although in January is only around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, can be brutal on the skin because the island is located so closely to the equator.  The Island is great for relaxing, but there’s also so much to do if you’re looking for a little adventure.  The clear blue waters are great for diving and snorkeling, and consistent winds make activities like parasailing a fun option.  If you’re a lover of seafood, this island has one of the freshest selections you’ll find.  Whether you’re at a nice restaurant or eating from a little food vendor by the ocean, the seafood is always fresh and delicious. 

What Should You Know?

1.       Aruba is a Dutch Caribbean island and the locals speak a language called Papiamento (a language which is a combination of many languages like Dutch, Spanish, French, etc.) but almost everyone speaks English, so there’s no need to worry about trouble communicating. 

2.       The island’s economy relies on tourism, and American tourism makes up 80% of the tourist dollars they receive.  Due to that, almost everything is made to cater to U.S. Citizens.  Their local currency is the Florin, but everywhere I went accepted the US dollar.  That makes it extremely simple for American tourists to shop and dine.

3.       One of my favorite things about this island: their water is clean.  As a matter of fact, they’ve got some of the cleanest water in the world. The islanders source their water from the ocean, desalinate it (reverse osmosis), and the end result is clean and fresh tasting water. 

4.        You need sunscreen.  Like I mentioned earlier, Aruba is located less than 900 miles from the equator, which means the UV rays that your skin soaks in can be extremely dangerous.  You’ll want to be cautious of how much time you spend laying directly in the sunlight, and of course ensure you’ve got a high SPF and eco-friendly sunscreen.  

5.       We rented an Airbnb (which btw is a great option), but because our accommodations were more inland we had to take taxi’s everywhere.  That can get kind of pricey, so if you’re staying away from the strip, I suggest renting a car.  It will probably be cheaper than the cost of paying for multiple cab rides per day.  Also, if you’re traveling in large groups, keep in mind that Aruba has a law that only allows 5 passengers per cab ride at a time.  So in our case, because we had 7 people, we often ended up paying for two cabs per ride.  

What Should You Do?

There are so many things you can do, here are a few that my crew and I did:

1.       Relax on Eagle Beach- Eagle beach is quiet and a great place to go if you’re just trying to lay out in the sun and don’t want to be cramped with people.  Enjoy a meal and a drink at one of the cabanas and catch a nap, or read a book for a great day of relaxation.  

2.       If you’re looking for a bit more adventure visit Palm Beach to shop, have a variety of restaurant options, and sign up for some water sports.  This beach is where most of the resorts are located so it’s heavily populated.  For those interested in the Island nightlife or that just prefer being among the energy of crowds, this is where you want to be.

3.       Jolly Pirates Snorkeling and Sailing Cruise- This was an excursion we signed up for on Palm Beach.  This 4-hour sail which included three snorkel stops and a rope swing into the ocean (both optional of course) was so much fun, and at only about $60/person, was definitely worth it.  You guys already know I’m a daredevil, so I definitely participated in the rope swing (a couple of times), but even if the sound of swinging from a rope into the middle of the ocean doesn’t entice you, laying on the boat during the sail makes the prices totally worth it.  *For more info about this excursion visit https://www.jolly-pirates.com

4.       Around Aruba Tours UTV ride- We also signed up for this excursion on Palm Beach.  These 2-seater terrain vehicle tours took us through the island’s dessert and coastline.  The rides were 4-hours long and began at the island’s largest exotic animal sanctuary.  Then on the guided tour you’re led through various historic parts of Aruba (Alto Vista Chapel, Baby Bridge, Bushiribana Ruins, Natural Bridge, Arikok National Park, Shark bay, Andicuri Beach, Three Bridges, Black Stone Beach, Conchi Natural Pool, Ayo Rock Formation.)  The ride was bumpy and dirty, but the views were gorgeous.  Travelers tip:  If you do this excursion wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, and have a good pair of shades to block the dust. *For more info about this excursion visit www.aroundarubatours.com

5.       Nightlife- Gambling in Aruba is legal so there are several casinos on the island for tourists and locals to enjoy, the Sopranos Piano Bar is a quaint little venue to sit down and have a cocktail, and Gusto’s is the night club on the Palm Beach strip if you’re in the mood to dance.  

6.       Eat local- There are a ton of food restaurants that you’re going to recognize (i.e. Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Ben & Jerry’s, etc…) don’t get caught in the trap, eat at local restaurants and get a taste of the amazing cuisine. 

Where Should You Stay?

Since Aruba is so driven by tourism there are many options of great accommodations.  I suggest you do your research to determine what will be best for you and your vacation needs.  You can do an all-inclusive resort like the Riu or rent a small condo from a local.  For those interested in where I stayed, visit www.baliretreataruba.com this Bali-style home had amazing amenities (two pools, Jacuzzi, volleyball court, gym, hammocks, home theater, and more).  The only drawback was that it’s about 1.5 miles from the beach, but if you don’t have to be oceanfront I would definitely recommend it to anyone!

All in all, I would definitely visit Aruba again.  Their slogan of “One Happy Island” is completely fitting!

Comment below if you’ve been to Aruba or are planning to go!  I’d love to hear from you!